Monday, November 28, 2005

Dead Crush #8

I know, another dead young singer. I promise that I also have crushes on dead old singers, as well as dead writers of comics, dead poets, dead fictionists, dead painters, dead losers, dead homos, dead heteros, dead ladies, and dead guys who were never in a band.

This guy has the scariest voice in the world. I used to freak myself out by listening to the song “Ice Age” on my walkman in the dark in my bedroom until I couldn’t stand it anymore and would have to turn on the light. It was exhilarating. It isn’t just the flat, ineffectual voice, but the eerie clap machine and robotic drums that create this dim parade of weirdly joyless passion. The voice is so far removed from the passion that it has somehow become a new kind of emotion. How can something sound so heartless and heartfelt? It is beautiful because it creates a paradox rather than opposition: a place where something new begins, rather than the turning away or dissolution caused by contradiction.

Instead of making you read a blog entry about Ian Curtis (he hung himself in 1980), I wish I could show you a short unmade film, which stars me at the end of 1993. The soundtrack is the song “Atmosphere,” played on repeat: “Walk in silence, don’t turn away in silence, your confusion, my illusion…” I’m sitting on my mattress, which is on the floor. It’s November and it’s raining. I just got back from Biology and it’s getting dark outside. My walls are floor to ceiling posters, including two wall-sized posters (the Boys Don’t Cry Cure poster and a Morrissey and Siouxsie poster promoting some duet they did). I have a dyed-red bowl cut and wear an old lady dress. I’m chain smoking as I lie back and listen to the music, trying to recover from another exhausting day of being out in the world, before I gather the strength I need to go eat at the dining hall, where hundreds of big-haired and shoe-booted sorority girls will stare at me and my similarly coifed and suited friends. I get up every once in a while to look at myself in the mirror while I smoke. I’m using an antique store tea cup as an ash tray. I am wearing this person like I’d wear an elephant-sized leather elephant suit. It looks ridiculous, though it is soft and comfortable because I can hide in it. I keep trying to make it fit, but it doesn’t somehow, because nothing fits. I’m trying so hard to be one person, because I think that’s normal. I’m a 19-year-old white girl in Iowa and I have no idea who I am. Not too shocking. And somehow the voice of Ian Curtis reflects the sheer terror I feel as I attempt to be this person, though he is also just a prop in this persona I'm trying on. I wish I could show you this me, this me who wasn’t me: a costume with a scared person inside, with many scared people inside, running into and away from each other, terrified because they aren't all exactly the same. Or maybe you should just stop reading now and go listen to Joy Division. Listening to Joy Division is probably better than reading most things; definitely better than reading most things I write. I will say this: no matter how much I tried to be the different characters, one at a time,I always loved the music. I really and truly loved the music, because I didn’t have to be anything when faced with the music. I just had to feel.

I wish I could say that I’m comfortable with all of the people I am now, or that I even really know who they are, but I don’t. I think what I’m getting better at is accepting the contradictions harbored within the teeming shrew psyche. Yes, I like sad scary music by dead guys. And yes I also crave the bittersweet and broken voice of Tammy Wynette. I wish to get totally shitfaced and make out with strangers almost as much as I want to be in the woods alone and stare for hours at a leaf. I want to watch a Real World marathon and I also want to read Ashbery’s “The Skaters” 10,000 times until each word and image become part of my breathing. I want all of these things at the same time. Until now, I’ve seen the contradictions as battling each other, which meant I was either crazy or “unfocused." Now I’m starting to see them approach each other cautiously, maybe give each other sideways glances. The drunken Ashbery-loving me shyly offers the woodlands me a cigarette. “I don’t smoke,” says the woodlands me, “but I don’t mind if you do. I’ll just be over here watching my dog chew on this pinecone.” And the drunken me goes on a crooked walk around the neighborhood in the dark, thinking evil thoughts and loving the world.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Dead Crush #7

My favorite Johnny Cash song is “Ballad of Barbara.” I’ve been listening to it a lot lately in my car, and whenever it’s over, I get choked up. Sometimes I start crying, and then when I walk into the house crying, (which I do often, for some reason--I do a lot of my crying in the car) I have to tell my dog, "I'm sad," because she always gives me such a weird look when I cry, as if she's not sure it's really me. She doesn't really understand me when I say this, but sometimes she will run to me with both the kong AND the nylabone in her mouth, instead of just the nylabone.

If you don’t know the song, it’s about a man who grows up in the country: “I worked in the fields, and I walked in the woods, and I wondered at creation.” Then,when he becomes a man, he moves to the city. He lives a wild life where people “sleep all day and they wake all night to a world of drink and laughter.” In this world he meets Barbara, whom he marries. She doesn’t care about his country home or his people; in fact, she loves the city so much that by the end of the song she actually turns into concrete and steel. Then the last lines: “Now the cars go by on the interstate, and my pack is on my shoulder; and I’m going home, where I belong, much wiser now, and older.” The way he sings those last words, so slowly and deliberately: “and older,” suddenly makes the whole song about the last two words: running away is something you have to do when you’re young. You have to try out that which is opposite. It’s a way of asking yourself who you are, even if it means abandoning your family, your solitude, your life. When his woman turns away from him, the protagonist knows that it’s time to go back to himself. Instead of regressing, he’s moving forward to the life he used to have. He tried marriage to the person made of skyscraper parts, and now he’s returning to himself, a lone man in the woods, surrounded by green things growing.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Shrew's Spleen Corner

Dear Readers,

For years, whenever I heard that someone was getting divorced, I privately thought, “Well, they certainly didn’t try very hard. Why did they even get married?” Now when I hear about it, I sometimes get a surge of joy. Especially when I reflect on the oft-quoted statistic about 50% of marriages ending in divorce. Instead of the nattering James Dobsonesque, “This is a travesty!” I think: Awesome. 50% of those dupes actually want to be happy.


Friday, November 11, 2005

Intermission 3

I filed for divorce today.

It’s been over two months since my husband declared his lack of interest in working on our problems and rented an apartment in some undergrad neighborhood. He told me he needed to be alone for a while, which was a huge lie as he was already making out with someone else. I have no idea what he’s doing now, which is both easier than the alternative and horribly surreal. The good thing is that anything he does now has absolutely nothing to do with my current life. My identity is slowly turning into something fairly novel: me.

Since he moved out, multiple friends and family members have come forward with inspiring stories about various shitty things he has done and said over the years: ways in which he was rude, careless, immature, and basically a four-year-old in a very tall man’s body (people also did this when I broke up with E., the dude I had before him). My reaction to the stories (particularly to one told to my mom by one of her friends I don’t even know, and of course my mom broke a leg running to the phone to tell me) is oh my god, I’m a total tool. I mean, what else am I supposed to think? I spent the last four years of life with someone that bugged nearly everyone I know, and no one said anything (except my siblings). What kind of loser would be with someone like this. Oh, a codependent loser? That's the best kind.
Granted, I’ve often thought the things reported in these stories, and related complaints to my twin and other close friends on occasion. But I see the Saying Mean Things About Exes in much the same way I see Saying Mean Things About Indiana—don’t do it unless you’re from there. Of course, I know that from the friend side at least, they’re trying to show their solidarity and compassion with/for me by dissing on him. And I appreciate it, though sometimes it makes me feel sad and weird (and sometimes I ask for it). I don’t know what my family members’ reasons are. Oh yeah, to show me that I really am a failure after all. Anyway, the reason I’m not with him anymore has nothing to do with how annoying or inappropriate he is. It has a lot more to do with the fact that he is just simply not the right person for me. We don’t know how to make each other happy, and we never have.

Though everything I’ve written heretofore is true, this is also true: I miss him terribly in sad sad late night ways, and I spend most of my days feeling like someone ripped my right arm and leg out of their sockets, switched them, and forced me to walk around like that and won’t tell me where to go. And there are tons of mirrors everywhere. And ledges, many many ledges.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Dead Crush #6

I’m kind of ashamed to admit it, but part of my attraction to the pre-husband boyfriend (in addition to his resemblance to Jarvis Cocker and his many horrible/fabulous habits), was the fact that he knew various famous people. He had lived in L.A. briefly, where he was the lead singer of a heavy metal band (one that he described as “ironic”). During this time, he knew and hung out with Beck, Rivers Cuomo, and other up-and-coming rockers. In fact, when he left L.A. to return to his native NH, the then-unfamous Beck moved into the apartment E. moved out of. The 23-year-old me was very impressed by this information, and was even more impressed with the music video of E.’s band that was filmed by someone-famous-that-I-now-forget. One of the highlights of the gritty, documentary-style video was a guy in a hot dog suit chasing a sexy waitress.

E.’s other main famous-connection was to Elliot Smith: the sad, sad singer-man who killed himself two years ago. Elliot was E.’s brother’s best friend, and E. knew him fairly well too, at least well enough for us to hang out with him every time he came to the Middle East in Cambridge to perform, which seemed like about twice a year when I lived out there. Elliot had briefly dated one of E.’s best friends, so she always came with us to see him too. What would usually happen is this: we would go backstage to see him and it was awkward and sort of awful, because Elliot, truth be told, seemed awkward and sort of awful. It would get better when we would then meet him at a bar after the show, because by then he would have consumed many, many drinks, and was actually a little bit witty. Then E. would consume many, many drinks, and HE was far from witty. In fact, some sort of fight with a stranger often happened on the nights after Elliot Smith shows—most likely E. dealing with his failed-rock-star jealousy. (Please let me never date another musician. Please.) Once there was no visible fight but E. disappeared for a really long time and came back with a huge unexplained gash on his hand. (I know you’re probably wondering what I was doing with this person, and if so I must ask you to reference Dead Crush #1.)

Elliot Smith’s mythology includes being totally ostracized and ridiculed in the horrible middle/high school years, and that is enough to make me have a crush on anyone. Anyone that can survive that and become famous gets many back-rubbings from me. (I missed 37 days of eighth grade due to the worst bully in the world. If you see him, make sure to gauge his eyes out for me, as I have not yet become famous.) Another reason for my undying love: the song "Pitseleh." And another reason: his covers of not-immediately-cool-seeming-songs that are actually amazing. Like “Supersonic” by Oasis? Who would have thought? And my favorite, which I saw him sing live: “Jealous Guy.” I cried.

I had a brief conversation with a friend this AM about whether or not Sylvia Plath was suited for this world. Was she never meant to be here? I can’t believe that, or believe it about anyone who kills him/herself. The shadow theory seems so much more likely to me. I do have to say that I kind of wish I hadn’t met ES, though I didn’t know him well at all, as I was much too awkward around him (and drunk) to try to have a one-on-one with him. My image of him now is of a very, very unhappy person. Nothing could save him. I can’t believe that music that beautiful couldn’t save someone.